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Elgin, Moray

Elgin is a City in north-east Scotland, 35 miles east of Inverness and 80 miles west of Aberdeen. The main industry in the area is whisky thanks to the vast amount of distilleries in the Speyside area. These include such known names as Johnnie Walker the largest selling whisky in the world. The city is also the administrative centre for Morayshire or Elginshire as it was once known.


The foundations for the City of Elgin were set in the early 11th century when a castle was built on the spot. The land soon became a favourite hunting spot for the early monarchs, particularly the infamous Macbeth whose house in the City still stands. In 1224 Alexander II raised Elgin's status to Royal Burgh and it became a City as the Bishop of Moray chose it as the seat for the diocese.

At first the seat was simply transferred to an existing church 'the Church of the Holy Trinity beside Elgin'. In its original form Elgin Cathedral was a simple cruciform building, but after it was damaged by fire in 1270 the choir was doubled in length with aisles added on each side and a Chapter House built opening off the north aisle.

In 1390 Alexander Stewart the illegitimate son of the king, more familiarly known as the Wolf of Badenoch, plundered and burned both Forres and Elgin including the Cathedral, which sustained such damage that it was necessary to rebuild the western gable, the arcades of the nave, the central tower and the Chapter House. There was also widespread slaughter in both places.

In the early years after the reformation the Cathedral remained untouched but was finally targetted and stripped almost to the bone in 1567. In 1630 the main roof collapsed, and for the following 200 years stone from the building was gradually cannibalised for houses in the city, leaving what was once known as the 'Lantern of the North' nothing more than a ruined shell.

Elgin in the 18th century became a central staging post for the ill fated Jacobite rebellion. Not only was the commander, Lord Murray a local lord, but many local clans came out in support of the Young Pretender. In the day before the fateful Battle of Culloden the Jacobite army spent it's last night there, Bonnie Prince Charlie staying in Pluscarden House, which had been built by Macbeth 700 years earlier.

Following the battle the clampdown by the Duke of Cumberland on the area was devastating. Elgin Castle was demolished and a large section of the local population were shipped off to Canada. For a period of about 80 years the area fell into poverty before a renassiance starting in about 1820.

Between 1820 and 1840 Elgin was transformed, with many fine new buildings identifying it as a city well worth visiting. Dr Grays Hospital, Anderson's Institute, the neo classical St Giles Church built between 1825 and 1828, and the Elgin Museum of 1842 reflect Elgin's status. At the same time the old restrictive gateways or ports to the town were removed with only the Pans Port near Elgin Cathedral now remaining. The ruins of the Cathedral were cleaned up, yielding hundreds of barrowloads of rubbish and work actually began on rebuilding it although this has been slow ever since and will never be finished at the current rate.

It was the coming of the railway in the mid 19th century that had a significant effect on Elgin. The size of the burgh doubled and effective communication links were opened up, thereby further strengthening its commercial and administrative importance as the centre of Moray.


  • Hassling-Ketling of Elgin, a notable protagonist of Sienkiewicz's novel The Deluge was a native of Elgin. The historical personality on whose life the story of Hassling-Ketling was based, certain Heyking, was also said to be born in the town.
  • The Elgin Marbles, now housed in the British Museum, were originally taken from Athens by the noble family whose title, the Earls of Elgin, is derived from the name of this burgh.

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